‘We were forced to intervene in Yemen’

Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri. (SPA)
Updated 09 October 2016

‘We were forced to intervene in Yemen’

RIYADH: The lack of intervention by Saudi Arabia and Arab coalition forces in Yemen would have turned the country into an Iranian missile base with dangers extending up to the southern border of the Kingdom.
And all this would have happened without Iran taking any direct responsibility, said spokesman for the Arab coalition forces Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri in a statement to the media.
The Kingdom intervened together with the 11 coalition countries to support the Yemeni people and to protect the southern border of the Kingdom, especially as security at the Yemeni border has been compromised in the chaos after the coup to smuggle weapons, drugs and people from different nationalities into the kingdom at a rate of 8,000 to 10,000 people a month,” said the spokesman.
“There are three main factors that prompted the Kingdom’s immediate intervention in Yemen. After the attacks of Houthi militias on the Kingdom’s borders in 2009, an agreement on end of all hostilities and for the Yemeni border guards to spread along the border was to take effect, but unfortunately the government of (Ali Abdullah) Saleh did not comply and the area became a base for Houthi militias to smuggle weapons, drugs and illegal people, creating a security problem for Kingdom.”
The second reason, he said, was the instability in Yemen, which has a direct bearing on the Kingdom. The absence of state institutions and lack of government meant that there would be voids to be filled and governed by terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Daesh, similar to situations in Iraq and Syria.
The spokesman said the absence of prestige and power of the state weakened by war, sectarian strife and armed groups, such as what is happening in Libya today, would affect the southern border of the Kingdom and turn Yemen into a base for terrorist operations against the Kingdom. The Kingdom’s defeating of Al-Qaeda inside its territory moved Al-Qaeda to Yemen, where it has been incubated under the auspices of the deposed leader, because there are areas in Yemen where the government has no influence.
As for the third reason, which Al-Assiri considers to be the most important, the coup led to the rise of militias, not internationally recognized, who control ballistic missiles with a range 500 km and advanced weapons, tanks, armored vehicles, and airplanes. This means any foolish act could result in a disaster that would harm the Kingdom and countries in the region.
Furthermore, the ties of these militias to Iran, a country that shows open hostility toward the Kingdom means that they would be supported to expand their efforts, not only targeting the Kingdom, but also regional countries, especially as the Iranian government announced its satisfaction about the fall of the fourth Arab capital under its control.
Regarding the measures taken by Iran after the coup, Gen. Al-Assiri said there appears to have been an agreement between Iran and the rebels, led by Saleh and the Houthi leader, to use flights to ferry arms. There were 28 flights weekly, at a rate of four flights a day, which were not for tourism, but rather to deliver weapons and ammunition to the Houthi militias, he said. This would have been followed by the deployment of Iranian forces on Yemeni territory, and the deployment of missiles to empower Yemen’s military to achieve Iranian plans against the Kingdom through its neighboring country, without direct legal responsibility from Iran.
The excuse, said Al-Assiri, would have been that Yemen was a failed state with no internationally recognized government.
For this reason, the situation demanded decisiveness, rather than waiting for the situation to reach the point of no return, and thus the Kingdom proceeded to set up the coalition consisting of 12 countries to address the situation and support the legitimate Yemeni government.
The spokesman said the Kingdom’s intervention was in the best interest of the region and cannot be disputed, as lack of intervention at the appropriate time would have led to a situation far worse than now with the region at the mercy of Iranian missiles.
He said Yemen would have become an Iranian missile base with dangers extending to all parts of the Kingdom and border regions, a scenario that warranted immediate action.
He said the Kingdom intervened as an Arab and leading nation in the region, especially after the legitimate Yemeni government requested Arab countries to intervene and assist because it could not face the militias alone.
As such, the Arab coalition’s intervention was not an attack on Yemen, but rather in support of the legitimate Yemeni government, he said, similar to the intervention of NATO and the United States in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and other countries.
The spokesman added: “When citizens unite, the Kingdom becomes stronger n the face of enemies. Thus citizens should be aware that they are the first and foremost security inside and outside the Kingdom. The state needs citizens to stay away from rumors, especially those on social networking sites which aim to weaken us internally and spread toxins between us to tear the national fabric apart.”
He called on citizens to rally around the leadership and support the armed forces because showing strengthen and cohesion will raise their morale and help defeat the enemy.

Saudi Arabia joins club of Middle East’s ‘green energy’ leaders

Updated 58 min 35 sec ago

Saudi Arabia joins club of Middle East’s ‘green energy’ leaders

  • Government plans to invest up to $50bn in renewable energy projects by 2023
  • Demand for electricity in the Kingdom is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia has become one of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s leaders in the race to use renewable energy, according to a new study.

The Solar Outlook Report 2020 was launched at the Solar Forum of the World Future Energy Summit, a highlight of this year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (Jan. 11-18).
The report, prepared by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA), the largest regional body of its kind, said Saudi Arabia and Oman have joined the UAE, Morocco and Egypt as leaders in the renewables race.
“Saudi Arabia is now in the third year of implementation of its massive target of 60 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy generation by 2030,” it said.
Martine Mamlouk, secretary-general of MESIA, said that investment in solar energy is evident across MENA countries. “Saudi Arabia has a target of almost 60 gigawatts of renewable energy, out of which 40 gigawatts are solar,” she told Arab News.
“This is in line with the Kingdom’s objective of diversification and Vision 2030. While the industry is reaching grid parity, it is great to see the deployment of new innovative technologies to increase efficiency of systems, production management and grids.”
Upcoming solar projects in the Kingdom include Madinah, Rafh, Qurayyat, Al-Faisaliah, Rabigh as well as Jeddah, Mahd Al-Dahab, Al-Rass, SAAD and Wadi Ad-Dawasir, along with Layla and PIF.
Saudi Arabia’s energy demand has been rising steadily, with consumption increasing by 60 percent in the past 10 years, according to data provided by market researchers Frost & Sullivan. Demand for electricity in 2019 reached 62.7 GW and is forecast to rise by up to 120 GW by 2030.
The value of solar-power projects in the MENA region is estimated at between $5 billion and $7.5 billion. By 2024, that figure is expected to approach $15 billion to $20 billion.
Under its Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom aims to reduce its dependency on oil revenues, diversify its energy mix and tap its renewable energy potential.

Saudi Acwa power-generating windmills that have been erected in Jbel Sendouq, on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. (Reuters)

After the Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) was set up within the Ministry of Energy, the goals for the Kingdom’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) were revised upwards in 2018, resulting in a five-year target of 27.3 GW and a 12-year target of 58.7 GW.
The Saudi government plans to invest up to $50 billion in renewable energy projects by 2023.
“At MESIA, we are excited to see solar developments in the MENA region accelerating and reaching attractive tariffs, while lowering the carbon footprint of regional economies,” Mamlouk said.
“The total investment in renewables in MENA between 2019 and 2023 is expected to be $71.4 billion, representing a 34 percent share of the total investment in the power sector, which is valued at $210 billion.”
Changes introduced by Saudi Arabia include a focus on local developers and easing of regulations for local manufacturers of solar panels.
A Local Content and Government Procurement Authority has been established to oversee and audit local content compliance.
Separately, a Renewable Energy Financing package has been launched by the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to support the growth of utility and distributed-generation sectors.
After solar photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof of a mosque in Riyadh, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center recommended a similar move at other mosques.
Meanwhile, plans for the use of solar panels in the Saudi agro-industry have led to burgeoning interest in the technology, with several industrial facilities expected to have their own units in the not-too-distant future.
For good measure, a regulatory framework to allow exchanges with the power grid is being studied by the Electricity Co-generation Regulatory Authority.
Flexible storage solutions, such as hydrogen, will give intermittent renewable energy a greater share in the energy system, Mamlouk said. “It may enable present-day oil and gas exporters to become key renewable energy exporters tomorrow. The solar industry is thrilled and proud to participate in this profound transformation of Saudi Arabia’s energy system.”
In the past year solar tariffs have fallen to record low levels in the MENA region, mainly due to tremendous cost declines that have brought the goal of grid parity within reach.
With installed solar electricity capacity worldwide standing at 617.9 GW, MENA governments are staying focused on energy diversification with the help of large-scale projects.
In the UAE, Dubai is targeting the completion of a 5 GW facility by 2030 at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Solar Park. Abu Dhabi has “engaged” its second-largest solar project and is considering the roll-out of more units by 2025.


62.7GW - Demand for electricity in Saudi Arabia in 2019

Morocco aims to reach 52 percent contribution by renewables in its energy mix by 2030. The figures for Tunisia and Egypt are 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, by 2022.
Oman expects solar-power plants totaling 1.5 GW to come on stream by the end of 2022. Even Iraq, with all its political troubles and administrative paralysis, has not ignored solar power in drawing up plans for its future energy mix.
“Investments in renewable energy have reached billions in all Arab countries,” Mohammed Al-Taani, secretary-general of the Arab Renewable Energy Commission, said.
“Jordan is spending more on renewable energy, and we encourage people to have more independence with renewables by generating their own electricity to reduce their bills.”

Nevertheless challenges remain when it comes to implementing projects in rural and isolated areas, according to Mustapha Taoumi, a technology expert at the EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network. “With regard to issues of power grid and access to the people, we have to prepare for everything and be ready to receive new technology because there are communities with little income and education,” he said.
“Then there is the challenge of implementation on the part of different actors and sectors. Social acceptance is also important as we come with new technologies and (information on) how to use them.
“We have to be innovative when it comes to financing the facilitation process. We have to be fair and democratic,” he said.
Although this is an exciting time for the region, governments will have to step up their efforts since they are still subsidizing the cost of power, Taoumi said.
“Technologies are evolving quickly, so decision-making must keep pace,” he said. “We could end up having smart meters in rural and isolated areas in two to three years.”